While award chart sweet spots and premium class redemptions tend to attract most of the spotlight, one less-discussed way to save money on travel is by taking advantage of the annual companion fares that get offered as a perk on certain credit cards.
Like the name suggests, companion fares are redeemable when at least two people are travelling together, offering a free or discounted ticket for the second passenger.
If you tend to travel as a couple, companion fares can be a fantastic way to essentially get up to a 50% discount on your flights. Furthermore, loading up on more than one companion fare and “multiplying” their benefit is one of the best ways to reduce costs if you regularly travel together as a family or party of four, six, eight, etc.
Let’s take a look at some of the best available companion vouchers being offered as a credit card perk.
The WestJet Annual Round-Trip Companion Voucher
WestJet’s annual round-trip companion voucher comes as a perk of the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard. As part of signing up for this card for an annual fee of $119, you’ll earn WestJet Dollars (WSD) redeemable towards the cost of any WestJet flight, free checked bags on WestJet flights, and a companion voucher.
When redeeming the companion fare, the cardholder will pay full price for the round-trip ticket, while the second guest will pay:
- $119 for travel within Canada and the continental US
- $399 for travel to/from Hawaii, Mexico, or the rest of the WestJet network
Note that the above amounts cover the base fare only, and you must still pay for the taxes and fees on the ticket separately.
The companion voucher expires one year after it’s issued (you have to book by this date), and at that point you’ll be given a new annual companion voucher for the following year. Therefore, as long as you can save more than $119 by using the companion voucher every year, you’re getting great value out of holding onto the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard for the long term.
The WestJet Dollars you earn as a signup bonus can also be combined with the companion voucher to achieve even greater savings. The signup bonus can be used towards either the first traveller’s full fare, or the second traveller’s discounted base fare.
However, it’s important to note that the guest travelling on the companion voucher is not eligible to earn WestJet Dollars from their travel. And unfortunately, the companion voucher can neither be redeemed in conjunction with Member Exclusive fares, nor can it be redeemed towards business class tickets in WestJet’s Dreamliners.
To redeem the companion voucher, you simply tick the “Companion voucher” box when searching for flights on the WestJet website.
You’ll then have the option to apply your companion voucher if you’re searching for at least two passengers.
One of the best uses of the companion voucher is within North America, where the second guest travels for only $119 in base fare. For example, let’s consider using the voucher on a transcontinental flight between Toronto and Vancouver, booked a few weeks in advance.
The total fare prices out at around $940, as broken down on ITA Matrix.
You’ll notice in the screenshot that the base fare comprises $705 of the $940 total fare, with the remaining $235 consisting of various taxes and fees. If you were to redeem your companion voucher to travel as a duo on this fare, you’d end up only paying $119 + $235 = $354 for the second traveller, thus incurring a savings of $940 – $354 = $586.
Clearly, the higher the original fare, the greater “value” you’re getting from the companion fare.
Therefore, in situations where base fares tend to be much higher, such as during last minute travel or peak travel periods, you stand to garner more value from your companion voucher by redeeming it during these times. Indeed, this is a general tendency with companion vouchers.
You can also use the companion voucher for WestJet flights to other destinations, such as Europe. You’d have to pay a higher amount of $399 for the second traveller, but it’s not necessarily the case that you’ll wind up saving money this way.
To see why, look at how WestJet’s European fares are constructed.
Notice how the base fare only comprises $280 ($140 + $140) of the overall $1,060 fare. That’s actually less than the $399 you’d have to pay when redeeming the companion fare, and you’d still be on the hook for the remaining $780 in taxes and fees.
So, be sure to look at the breakdown of the fare to make sure you’re actually getting a good deal with the companion voucher from WestJet.
Lastly, while these examples were designed with a travelling couple in mind, they can certainly be generalized to a family of four or more that needs to travel together. If, say, both parents were to pick up a WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, you could double-up on the savings for the entire family.
Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare
Another companion fare that’s offered as a benefit on a Canadian credit card is the “Famous Companion Fare” by Alaska Airlines, which comes as part of the MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercard. Both the World Elite and Platinum Plus versions of the card are eligible to earn the companion fare.
Your companion fare is added to your Alaska account soon after opening the card, as well as every year thereafter when you renew the credit card.
When redeeming the companion voucher for travel on Alaska Airlines-operated flights, the cardholder will pay full price, while the second passenger will pay $99 (USD) in base fare, plus any applicable taxes and fees (which begin at $22 (USD), hence why this perk is sometimes described as a “$121 (USD) companion voucher”).
Unlike the WestJet version, the Alaska companion fare cannot be redeemed in conjunction with Alaska miles, although both travellers can earn miles as a result of travelling on the companion fare. Travel must be on Alaska Airlines-operated flights only, and can’t be on any of Alaska’s partner airlines.
To redeem the companion voucher, look for the discount code associated with it in your Alaska Airlines account and note it down.
When you’re searching for flights, place the companion fare code in the appropriate box.
If there are valid flights available, you’ll see a small symbol in the search results indicating that the companion fare has been applied.
The Alaska companion voucher will be most useful to those of you living in Western Canada, where Alaska flies to Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, and Kelowna from their hub in Seattle.
For example, let’s look at a round-trip flight from Victoria to New York booked a few weeks in advance, with the price displayed in US dollars.
On this booking, the second passenger would pay only $99 (USD) for the base fare, instead of the actual base fare of $860.36 (USD), thus incurring a satisfying savings of $761.36 (USD).
If you live outside of Western Canada, it can be tougher to get value out of the Alaska companion voucher, or even to redeem it at all. This is because Alaska’s route network doesn’t reach as far as the Eastern Canadian cities.
However, if you can make your way down to Boston, New York, or Detroit, you could potentially score some pretty big savings on Alaska flights, perhaps by using the companion voucher for a cheaper trip out to Hawaii.
The Air Canada Buddy Pass
As a perk on some Air Canada Aeroplan co-branded credit cards, you can earn a Buddy Pass. Buddy Passes allow you to book a second passenger with a $0 base fare when the other passenger pays full price for an Air Canada flight.
Buddy Passes only apply to travel in economy class within North America, including to Mexico and Hawaii. Unfortunately, they can’t be combined with Aeroplan points, and must be used on cash fares with Air Canada flights only.
While we’ve historically seen Buddy Passes offered on a suite of Aeroplan co-branded credit cards, they’re currently only offered on the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card and the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business Card.
Once you’ve earned a Buddy Pass, it shows up in your Aeroplan account under the “Benefits” tab. It’s valid for one year from the date of issuance, and you’ll only receive it once as part of a welcome bonus.
If you have a valid Buddy Pass, simply log-in to your account and search for flights for two people using cash. Once the search results load, keep an eye out for the “Credits and discounts” blurb, which you’ll need to click on.
Tick the box next to your Buddy Pass, and then click “Apply”.
The search results will repopulate, and you’ll see a small ticket logo next to the search results, which tells you that your Buddy Pass is valid for the fare and routing.
Similar to the other companion vouchers, the Buddy Pass reduces the base fare to $0 for the second passenger, while the first passenger pays full fare. The passenger with no base fare still has to cover the taxes and fees for the ticket, so be sure to consider those before redeeming your Buddy Pass.
Buddy Passes can be used in conjunction with Economy (Standard), Economy (Flex), Economy (Comfort), or Economy (Latitude) fare. Note that only the passenger who paid full fare is eligible to earn towards Aeroplan Elite Status on the booked flight.
As with other companion vouchers that reduce the base fare, you’ll stand to get the most value from the Buddy Pass by using it against high base fares. The usual suspects of travel during peak seasons or at the last minute apply here, too.
If you already have Aeroplan Elite Status, and therefore also enjoy having eUpgrades at your disposal, you’ll be happy to know that you may apply eUpgrades to bookings made with Buddy Passes. This can be a great way to squeeze extra value out of both the Buddy Pass and your eUpgrades.
The Air Canada Annual Worldwide Companion Pass
The Air Canada Annual Worldwide Companion Pass is similar to the Buddy Pass, in that it reduces the base fare for a second passenger, but it differs as it may be used across Air Canada’s entire flight network. In many regards, it’s similar to the WestJet companion voucher outlined above.
The Companion Pass allows a second passenger to travel on a discounted base fare when the first passenger pays full price for an Air Canada economy class ticket to anywhere in the world.
The Companion Pass can be redeemed on any Air Canada flights between Canada or the United States and one of the following regions:
- Canada or the United States (excluding Hawaii): $99 base fare
- Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean: $299 base fare
- South America, Europe, Middle East, and Africa: $499 base fare
- Asia, Australia, and New Zealand: $599 base fare
Similar to the Buddy Pass, the Companion Pass can only be used with economy fares, including Economy (Standard), Economy (Flex), Economy (Comfort), and Economy (Latitude). They may not be used for premium economy or business class flights.
Likewise, Companion Passes may not be combined with Aeroplan points, and may not be used for any codeshare flights with partner airlines.
The Air Canada Annual Worldwide Companion Pass is a benefit afforded to certain credit cardholders who meet an annual minimum spending requirement. It’s neither given as part of a welcome bonus, nor is it guaranteed to be renewed year after year.
Rather, upon spending $25,000 each year on a premium Aeroplan credit card, eligible cardholders will have an Air Canada Annual Worldwide Companion Pass deposited into their Aeroplan account.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
115,000 Aeroplan points
$599 annual fee
|115,000 Aeroplan points||$1,942||
115,000 Aeroplan points
$599 annual fee
|115,000 Aeroplan points||$1,921||
105,000 Aeroplan points
$599 annual fee
|105,000 Aeroplan points||$1,869||
Up to 75,000 Aeroplan points
$599 annual fee
|Up to 75,000 Aeroplan points||$425||
If you can save at least $599 by using the Companion Pass strategically, you’ll have saved the equivalent of your premium credit card’s annual fee.
Once you’ve met the spending requirement, which depends on your card’s annual renewal date and not by the calendar year, it will show up in the “Benefits” tab of your Aeroplan account within 10 weeks. It’s valid for one year from the date of issue, but can be used to book flights beyond its validity date.
To use the Companion Pass, simply search for cash flights for two people on Air Canada’s website. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a “Credits and discounts” blurb, which you’ll need to click on.
If there are eligible flights for the Companion Pass, you’ll see the base fare clearly marked. Be sure to check off the box next to your Companion Pass, and then click “Apply”.
Once you click “Apply”, the search results will repopulate, and eligible flights will have a small ticket symbol next to them.
While the base fares with the Companion Pass aren’t free, they can still offer up some great value. The usual scenarios for maximizing other companion vouchers apply here, too – you’re more likely to get good value out of the card by using it when base fares tend to be higher.
One compelling use of Companion Passes may be in conjunction with eUpgrades on long-haul flights. Despite base fares of up to $599, if you’re able to get an upgrade to premium economy or business class, you’d have saved a significant amount over booking in a higher class of service to begin with.
Just be sure to check out the breakdown of the fare, perhaps by using ITA Matrix, to ensure that you’re getting a good deal. If the base fare is low, and most of the ticket’s cost is in the taxes, fees, and carrier surcharges that you’d have to pay anyway, you could wind up being disappointed.
The British Airways Companion Award eVoucher
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite grants you a Companion Award eVoucher when you spend $30,000 (CAD) on the card within a calendar year.
Unlike the other two companion tickets, the British Airways Companion Award eVoucher is usable only when you’re redeeming Avios for a British Airways flight originating from and returning to Canada, not when you pay for a revenue ticket. When you redeem Avios for two passengers travelling on British Airways, the second passenger won’t have to pay any Avios at all.
While that might sound like a good deal on the surface, anyone familiar with the British Airways Avios program will know that the fuel surcharges on British Airways long-haul flights can be quite substantial. Indeed, RBC even mentions this in the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite’s terms and conditions, so as to avoid giving cardholders the wrong idea that they’re getting anything close to a “free” ticket:
That definitely takes most of the excitement out of this perk, because if you’re paying $600 in taxes and fees per person to get to London (in addition to the Avios required for the first passenger’s ticket), then you may as well just buy an economy class ticket for about $700–900 per ticket.
This voucher could potentially being useful for someone who wants to fly business class direct from Canada to London. For example, a round-trip from Toronto to London Heathrow in British Airways business class would cost between 100,000 and 120,000 Avios, depending on whether it’s peak or off-peak.
If you paid 100,000 Avios, plus around $2,000 in taxes and fees, to fly round-trip direct business class for two people in total, it wouldn’t be the worst deal in the world compared to the retail price.
However, aside from this very niche redemption, you’d be far better off redeeming, say, Aeroplan points or Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles to get to Europe.
Overall, it’s fair to say that the Companion Award eVoucher on the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite is rendered pretty ineffective by the surcharges that British Airways is known for. Consider also that you need to spend $30,000 on the card to get it in the first place, and it’s most likely not going to be worth much attention.
The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, the MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercard, and various Aeroplan co-branded credit cards offer companion vouchers as part of their benefits. The best ways to use each voucher vary, but they are all valuable in specific circumstances.
Sure, using points for travel is always preferred, but it may make sense to pay cash for flights in some circumstances. If you’re travelling as a pair, you can make use of companion vouchers for when you’d otherwise have to pay cash.
Be sure to check the price breakdown of your desired flights to make sure you’re actually getting a good deal, as sometimes you’d be better off paying full price to begin with.